While Learning Liftoff has previously brought you a variety of Presidents’ Day Activities and stories about U.S. Presidents who have overcome great obstacles, including FDR and Abraham Lincoln, here we have a number of quite fascinating and little-known presidential facts that you may not have heard before. We hope you enjoy these interesting facts about the presidents of the United States of America and the men who have held the office.
At One Time, The U.S. Had a Native American Vice-President
It’s true, Charles Curtis was a member of the Kaw Nation tribe and a politician who held positions including U.S. Representative, State Senator (Kansas), and Senate Majority Leader. However, his ascension to the second highest office in the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government was his greatest political accomplishment.
Mr. Curtis served as vice-president to Herbert Hoover, who was elected president in 1928. Upon taking the position, Mr. Curtis decorated his office with native American artifacts, posed for photos while wearing Indian headdresses, and had an Indian jazz band perform at the inauguration ceremony in March of 1929.
On a related note, Herbert Hoover learned to make bows and arrows while living with his uncle on a Native American reservation in Oklahoma as a child.
Modern Day Presidents Earn a $400,000 Salary
While there may be more important things than money to a president (political power, perhaps), recent presidents have made a pretty solid paycheck. Since 2001, the annual salary for the President of the United States of America is $400,000.
Prior to the salary increase in 2001, presidents from 1969-2001 earned $200,000 per year. When George Washington was elected president in 1789, his salary was $25,000, which was significantly more money back then than the current presidential salary of $400,000 today!
Millard Fillmore Turned Down an Honorary Degree from Oxford University
When Millard Fillmore was presented with an honorary degree from Oxford, he refused to accept it due to the fact that he was not “classically educated,” and the diploma was written in Latin.
His reason for turning down the offer was that he believed “no man should accept a degree he cannot read.”
Abraham Lincoln Was a Great Wrestler
Among the many fascinating facts about Abraham Lincoln, one that stands out as particularly surprising is that he is enshrined in the Wrestling Hall of Fame. With a reported record that includes just one loss in around 300 matches, Lincoln was a quite accomplished wrestler at a young age.
While accounts differ, popular legends say that in his 20’s, Lincoln was once prodded into wrestling an adversary that tried to cheat by tripping him. Upon being confronted by this adversary’s entourage, stood up to the group, back against a wall, and proclaimed that he would fight each man individually, but not as a group.
Andrew Jackson Taught His Parrot to Curse, and Was Shot (At) Twice
There are numerous accounts about Andrew Jackson’s pet parrot, who was quite notorious for having a foul mouth.
In fact, rumor has it that the parrot was so profane, that it had to be removed from Jackson’s funeral for disturbing those who gathered for the event.
A Subject of Confrontation
Andrew Jackson had a well-known penchant for duels, and in 1806 he shot famed attorney and expert marksman Charles Dickinson dead in the street after an argument between the rivals who held a well-known hatred for each other. Jackson offered to let Dickinson shoot first, which he did, hitting Jackson in the chest.
As per the rules of a duel, Jackson returned fire, but it’s reported that his pistol misfired. Breaking common dueling etiquette, Jackson fired again and hit Dickinson, causing his death.
Jackson was never prosecuted for Dickinson’s death, and was elected president 13 years later in 1829.
In 1835, Jackson was the target of the first presidential assassination attempt, during which a young man pulled a pistol and fired point-blank, but to everyone’s amazement, Jackson didn’t fall. The gun had misfired.
The gunman, to everyone’s surprise, had another pistol, with which he fired again. Unbelievably, the second pistol misfired, too! This young man, Richard Lawrence, was subsequently arrested and put on trial, and was found not guilty by reason of insanity after just five minutes of jury deliberation.
George Washington Lost More Battles Than He Won
George Washington is well known for his leadership and accomplishments, and his military career was a large part of that. However, while Washington is known for his successes, it turns out that forces under his command were defeated more times than not.
This is an especially interesting fact due to the great number of battles Washington participated in throughout his career. His military service spanned more than 40 years, and while he had several close calls on the battlefield, he never sustained any serious injuries, even in these defeats.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams Stole a Piece of William Shakespeare’s Home
During a visit to England in 1786, while working in Europe, Jefferson and Adams toured William Shakespeare’s home, and in the process, used a knife to chip off a piece of a chair to keep as a souvenir.
Ulysses S. Grant Got a Speeding Ticket Before Cars Were Invented
Turns out that U.S. Presidents have to follow the same rules as the rest of us, especially when it comes to public safety. Ulysses S. Grant found this out around 1866 when he was stopped by police for driving his horse-drawn carriage “dangerously” fast.
As a result, the carriage was impounded and Grant had to walk back to the White House.
Andrew Garfield’s Assassin Used a Pistol With an Ivory Handle Rather than Wood Because He Thought It Would Look Better in a Museum
When Charles Guiteau went to purchase a firearm that he would ultimately use to shoot Andrew Garfield, he selected a British Bulldog revolver with an ivory handle, rather than the more common wood handles used at the time.
The reason for this selection was simple, Guiteau knew that if he succeeded in his mission, the murder weapon would likely end up in a museum, and he wanted something that would look best.
While Guiteau did succeed in shooting Andrew Garfield in a train station, it’s widely believed that Garfield could (or should) have survived the attack. The day after the shooting, Garfield’s vital signs were looking good, but over the course of the summer his condition fluctuated.
He ultimately passed away 80 days after the shooting due to a serious infection, which is believed to have been caused by doctors probing the wounds with dirty hands and instruments while searching for the remaining bullet. Medical historians believe these events led to the development of greater sterilization techniques and surgical procedures.